Jordy Mercer’s Impressive Defensive Feat in 2014

Mark Simon from ESPN found a very impressive accomplishment from Jordy Mercer during the 2014 season, as shown in his tweet below.

Mercer had a 1.6 WAR on defense in 2014 according to Baseball-Reference. That is up from the 0.2 dWAR he put up during the 2013 season. He made 11 errors this season, nine of them fielding related, one on a catch and one was a throwing error that obviously wasn’t a play at first base. His fielding percentage(.982) ranked fourth in the NL, he was second in assists and his Total Zone Runs(21) led all shortstops in the majors. All this basically means is that Mercer showed solid improvements over 2013 at shortstop, a year in which he was basically average.

  • Mercer’s body frame (6′-3″, 205) suggests that he may be moved to a corner infield position at some point during his career.–colorado-s-troy-tulowitzki-stands-alone-as-baseball-s-most-dominant-shortstop-163626579.html

    “Garciaparra’s and A-Rod’s bodies simply didn’t hold up to the rigors. Nomar’s back-to-back batting titles produced two of the seven best averages by a shortstop (.372 and .357). A-Rod’s transcendent 1996 season – .358/.414/.631 as a 20-year-old – included the second most runs (141) and doubles (54) for a shortstop. The doubles leader? Nomar in ’02, with 56.”

    “…the 28-year-old Tulowitzki faces perhaps the most important season of his career. He comes off a season in which he played just 47 games because of a lingering groin injury that necessitated surgery, and six years into his career Tulowitzki has played more than 150 games just twice.”

    The second article was written almost 2 years ago. Tulowitzki played 126 games in 2013 and 91 games in 2014.

  • Mercer just looks awkward….nothing looks natural or smooth. The way he throws looks unorthodox, his head jerks to the side, almost looks painful when he releases the ball. Even when he runs it looks awkward with his arms swinging all over the place. Just my observation, nothing more, nothing less…

  • And, surely, on Mercer’s first play of the 2015 season, he’ll throw the ball into the seats. 🙂

  • Does anyone know what his one throwing error was. I thought I remembered a throw where he was charged with pulling the 2nd or 3rd baseman off the bag on the throw but it looked playable. Common sense would say it came on a relay throw from the outfield or a throw to second. But then I lack common sense, lol!

  • The defensive shifts really help out a guy like jordy….he lacks range, but makes up for it with making all the routine plays and he always seems to be on the right place at the right time. I look for his offense to make another step forward this season. I just don’t see him hitting .160 for the 1st 2 months again.

    • He must have fairly decent range, because you just described Walker in your attempts to describe Jordy. And Neil gets tore up with advanced fielding metrics with those same qualities

      • Mercer has average at best range, walker is below average…both benefit from the defensive shifts employed by scouting and advanced metrics.

        • That doesn’t really make sense. If the only difference between these two players was that Neil’s range sucks and Jordy’s is average, you wouldn’t see such a gap from them in an advanced metrics perspective.

          • Do u watch the games? I’m going off the eye test and I don’t see much range with mercer…does that make sense?

  • Mercer is not flashy, just solid, Tanner would have loved him, Tanner loved Foli (crazy horse) a living statue at SS.

    • leadoff: Well stated, and I cannot think of anyone thinking that Jack Wilson was flashy either. He just kept improving his game, was rock solid for the Pirates, and became one of the best SS in the Majors. The Pirates have been missing that since Wilson went off to Seattle, but Jordy Mercer has firmly staked out the Shortstop position as his. The only knock on Jordy after his career at OK St. is that he has not recorded any Saves for the Pirates. His pitching experience may have a lot to do with his ability to throw strikes to 1B.

      I wonder if Wilson will ever return to the Bucs in a coaching capacity?

  • Mercer has all the makings of being a very good all around ss, just wonder if he will be cal or the guy cal replaced? Other question is does he fit in with the pirates long term plan? Methinks this year will decide this and a lot of other question marks for the bucs.

    • seeing as we have no legitimate short stop prospects higher than A ball, yes he is in the long term plan, which is never more than 3 years looking into the future realistically.

      • Notice the position player turnover rate this winter?

        Teams don’t limit themselves to the prospect already in their system.

        • Position turnover rate for guys who weren’t already adding a positive value to the team? No, i really didnt. How does Russell martin leaving via free agency and us getting rid of two overpaid failures at first base indicate any position turnover? Positions we had any reasonable control over were 1/7 turnover rate. No, that isn’t much NMR.

          Teams in general might not, but small market teams like us certainly do, especially when its at a position of extreme demand and shortage AKA shortstop. You don’t get players better than Mercer at shortstop outside of your own system unless you are willing to shell out 15 Million/year or give up top ML players via trade. Neither of which we are going to do .

      • The cubs have a nice crop of shortstops and looking for pitchers : )

        • Nice crop? I don’t think Baez qualifies. So besides Castro whom we will never be traded, whom are you referring to?

  • Lee Foo Young
    January 7, 2015 1:19 pm

    He is not fancy, but he ‘makes the plays’ as they say.

    I’ve always liked Jordy at SS….always have and unless he somehow regresses, always will.

    • Logically speaking, don’t you have to expect some regression?

      You may have always liked him, but the guy had one error for every 43 throws to 1B prior to last year.

      • Which if he repeated that ratio next year and made 300 throws to 1B, would put him about 1 bad throw above the average that the other 13 shortstops who made 300 throws accomplished last year. If he did that while improving a bit at the plate, I would take that for an almost league-minimum shortstop.

      • True that you cant expect no throwing errors from him every year, but there are more than a few people who crunch numbers and follow players that have been saying Mercer has always rated as an above average defender. His lanky frame gives off an impression of awkwardness, but his stats in the minors actually show a very solid defender. Regression may occur, but its not actually that crazy to think it may not be that large of a regression.

        • I have a tough time with this one.

          The very few in the traditional scouting community gave him much of a shot to stick at the position at the ML level, but Andrew posted a great article by Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs just the other day that essentially said scouts suck at making this determination for Mercer’s player-type.

          But on the other hand, I seriously question the accuracy of any minor league fielding data used to develop advanced metric-type analysis. And it cannot be disputed that Mercer failed defensively in his initial big league trial.

          I do believe he legitimately improved his skill level last year, and IMO that’s one of the more impressive adjustments I’ve seen anyone in the org make in quite some tome. Ultimately, I question how much of that is sustainable for a large-bodied, marginally athletic SS already closer to 30 than 25.

          • I think my biggest concern with him isnt his overall ability to field, but his ability to stay healthy with his frame and the wear and tear it’ll take at SS. Minor league data isnt reliable, but it does show an above average fielder. Many young players see early struggles at times, so im somewhat giving to him. I think Mercer is an above average fielder right now and can sustain that, but only if he sustains health. All this is a reason im not on the “extend Mercer” bandwagon at all, at least until i see some of the guys in the lower levels fail completely.

            • What minor league data are you speaking of, exactly?

              • Combination of his miilb stats such as range factor and assists and DP and errors etc etc. Along with multiple conversations with Brian Cartwright on BD, as he has followed Mercer through the minors and used his formula and said Mercer was above average at his spot during most of his time in the minors.

                • Yeah, I figured you were talking about Cartwright. No offense to him, but does anyone else agree?

                  And how exactly is range factor calculated in the minor leagues? Otherwise, you realize you’re talking about the same antiquated fielding statistics that required the development of advanced metrics, correct?

                  • the best thing about antiquated fielding statistics is that they are facts, not extrapolations. You either made an error or you didn’t. There is no debate. The best analysis takes into account the eye test, old stats, AND new fielding metrics to get a whole view. Anything else is like looking at a pyramid while standing directly behind one side of it (not getting the full picture)

                    • Exactly(at least the last part) the reason why I’m asking what these minor league defensive metrics actually include.

                    • Actually, antiquated fielding statistics aren’t facts; they’re opinions. An “error” is a judgment call by the scorer.

                    • To some degree that’s true, but its a very small degree. There is little debate on 95% of plays where there is a gray area. Someone who made 20 errors is unlikely to have made 15 or 25 based on having another scorer look at the play.

                • Genuinely asking, btw. I think it’s excellent that Brian has such a passion and undoubtedly is a bright guy.

                  • Mercer clearly figured some things out mechanically going into his second MLB season. I don’t see why you would expect a regression back to his 1st season defense level. You’ve got a large sample size now showing that he’s definitely made some important adjustments.

                    • Never said I expect regression back to his first season. It’s called regression to the mean, not to the last season.

                      Mercer probably isn’t as bad as his first year, and Mercer probably isn’t as good as his second year.

                    • What did he figure out mechanically is the key.. do we know what that is or are we assuming. . If we know, and jordy maintains the adjustment then 2014 is really the first year of reliable data for any projection analysis.. however if we’re assuming an adjustment was made based off improved data, fielding data seems to have a large variance and we may have just seen a huge outlier in jordy’s career, therefore a serious regression may be in store

            • No reason to think he would breakdown health wise any earlier than the typical 32-33 years old years, which is still 4 full seasons away. No concerns here

              • No reason to fret over his health over the length of his current deal, but no reason to want to buy out some additional years either.

          • .2 postive DWAR would hardly be a “failure” for anyone’s year in the major leagues as a starting shortstop, it would be seen as average. Average is never failure.

            That being said, I am sure he will have plenty of years in between his first and second years, but we will just have to wait and see. If he can give us 1.0 DWAR every year, noone can complain especially if he is matching that with an equal offensive contribution, as we would expect to see based on the trial sizes of his ml hitting outside of april and may of 2014

            • His Manager lost confidence in his defense so much that he was benched in favor of Clint Barmes, who literally couldn’t hit anything.

              That’s failure in my book.

              • NMR- you basically just are proving Clint Hurdle’s bias and inability to perceive talent or overall value of a younger player over a vet, and not anything towards proving your point. Barmes was a better defender and to Hurdle, that value was more important than the lack of offense. We know now, by looking back, that it was not the best decision and not based off realistic player value

            • I’m a fan of jordy’s bat.. I just found this funny that we set expectations by removing two full months of poor performance data.. I suspect if we remove that many good at bats one can make a convincing argument that jordy is at best a platoon player..

              • I really don’t think so rickster. We will have to see, which i stated in my comment. I think it’s more likely that he will never hit .160 over two full months of play during a season than he will never hit .350 over two months in a season. But we won’t know until his career is over

          • I know this doesn’t add much to the discussion, but the “awkward looking” comment above is so true. The guy LOOKS like he has 2 bad knees when he is running and that he is slower than dirt, but he gets around the bases in decent time –by the eye test– and seems to be ok. I DO see him not lasting much past 30 just because of a gut feeling from a guy who has such odd coordination.

          • Scouts generally suck at predicting whether anybody can play SS at the MLB level.

            • Absolutely, which is the reason I’m genuinely interested in hearing more about what these minor league metrics actually look at.

              Seems like a guy could make a boat load of money if he was able to figure out a way to better identify ML caliber defense at the minor league level.

              • I wouldn’t trust any metrics in the minor leagues so i really have no interest in seeing them. Might be impossible based on the shape of the fields. I don’t see why range and throwing can’t be easily quantified, but not much else could….

          • “And it cannot be disputed that Mercer failed defensively in his initial big league trial.”
            I also don’t think it can be disputed that less than 600 innings at SS is too SSS to draw conclusions. I think even guys that love the defensive metrics (if any exist) would say they’re not too helpful in less than thousands of innings.

        • I think it just comes down to whether the evaluation values range or error rate.. mercer’s conversion of plays deemed less then 60% are fairly poor, but due to his lack of range he doesn’t get a glove on the ball so no error is recorded. . The amount of opportunities he receives to convert those plays are also fairly low due to the front offices evaluation of defensive placement.. jordy seems a great fit for the buccos given his strength/weaknesses (and cost)

  • Watch, or listen ,to MLB Network on tv or on satellite radio and wait for Mercer’s name to be mentioned….at all. I would suggest not holding your breath while waiting though.

    • That pretty much applies to the pirates in general, heck even when they are not spending millions on free agents the cubs get more airtime than the pirates, shoot they even talk about the astros more than the pirates.

      • Which is because of Pittsburgh’s microdot sized market.

      • Yep pillo, you are absolutely correct on that observation. But at least ( so far ) I haven’t had to listen to Duquette or Bowden threatening to never talk about the Pirates till they spend money on stiffs like Kendrys Morales.

  • Very Cal Ripken-like. Ripken was like a machine with his throws. It’s something you don’t think about when guys aren’t making errors but those stats are incredible. it’s no coincidence the Pirates got hot when Mercer started hitting and playing everyday last year.